Presenting the 2015 A.C.E. Award Winners!

The winner: Kirsten Russell, for her Islands

Whew! At last night’s Capezio A.C.E. Awards, there was some FIERCE dancing. Fifteen finalists battled it out onstage for some pretty amazing prizes: $3,000, $5,000 or $15,000 to produce their own show next year.

The A.C.E. Awards are easily my favorite part of our Dance Teacher Summit. Not only do you get the chance to see some truly original, amazingly executed choreography, but this is also the evening DT recognized our Dance Teacher Award recipients. As we introduced each of our fantastic awardees—Jochelle Pereña, Dale Lam, Brandee Williams Lara, Vera Ninkovic and our lifetime achievement winner, Jenifer Ringer—and listened to their heartfelt thank-you speeches, it was impossible not to think of the many, many teachers behind the dancers and choreographers presenting work as part of the competition. As Ringer said in her speech, there’s so much that goes into these performances; the opportunity to be part of these dancers’ and choreographers’ support systems as a teacher is a gift.

And of course, huge congratulations to the A.C.E. winners! This year, the judges (who I did not envy, with so many great options to choose from) awarded two second runner-ups: Marinda Davis, for her flower-child piece of pure happiness,, and Cat Cogliandro, for her Ripe & Ruin, featuring dancers in birthday hats, and paint-splattered t-shirts.

Marinda Davis'


Cat Cogliandro's Ripe & Ruin

First runner-up went to Andrew Winghart for his impressively controlled, slo-mo Heed the Call.

Andrew Winghart's Heed the Call

And this year’s winner is Kirsten Russell, for her Islands, featuring some of the fiercest ladies I've seen. Russell's piece was incredibly musical and powerful.

Russell's Islands

Congratulations to all of the winners, and thanks for such a great show!

All photos by Joe Toreno for Dance Teacher magazine

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